Glut: Abandoned plots turn into potato dumps

Farmers’ woes: With potato prices as low as Rs 2 per kg, farmers, cold store owners choose to discard the crop on abandoned plots than suffer a negative return

punjab Updated: Jan 30, 2018 13:29 IST
Shub Karman Dhaliwal
Shub Karman Dhaliwal
Hindustan Times, Mohali
potato dumps,potato glut,Farmers’ woes
Mohali, India January 28: Potato dumped road side in village Chatt in Mohali on Sunday, January 28, 2018.(Ravi Kumar/HT)

Due to the ongoing slump in the price of potato in the wholesale market, farmers have started dumping large quantities of potato on open spaces instead of selling the crop in the market. Reason: Owing to surplus potatoes in the national market, the price remained around Rs 2 per kg, which is the lowest of the season, leaving the farmers with no choice but to take their potato stocks from cold stores and dumping them away.

Reports in this regard have come from various parts of the state, including the Dera Bassi, Banur and Rajpura belts. Sacks full of potatoes can be seen dumped near Chhatt village right along the Zirakpur-Patiala highway.

With potato production costing Rs 5 per kg, farmers say no one is ready to sell the crop at Rs 2 per kg in the market because selling the potatoes at such low price cannot even cover transportation, labour and gunny bag cost.

The ban on the export of potato to Pakistan, where the crop was fetching price as good as Rs 10 per kg, has added to the woes of farmers. — Jang Bhadhur Sangha, potato farmer, Jalandhar

Their plight

Didar Singh, a potato farmer from Shatabgarh village of Dera Bassi, said, “Keeping a 50-kg bag of potato in a cold store costs Rs 120 for a full season. A gunny bag costs about Rs 20 and labour cost for filling, loading and transporting the potato-filled bag costs Rs 25.”

“This way, a 50-kg bag costs us Rs 165 in total. However, in the wholesale market, the bag fetches only Rs 120-130. With such a negative return, majority of farmers prefer not to lift their crop from the cold stores,” he said.

Another farmer from Shatabgarh village, Dasmesh Singh, said, “As farmers neither pay the rent of keeping the potato in cold stores nor come to lift their stock, the owners of stores are forced to just dump the potato away on open spaces. And sometimes, farmers themselves throw the potato away in open spaces instead of taking the crop to the market.”

Mohali, India January 28: Potato dumped road side in village Chatt in Mohali on Sunday, January 28, 2018.Photo by Ravi Kumar/Hindustan Times (Ravi Kumar/HT)

‘Farmers refuse to pick stock’

The slump in potato prices has also caused huge losses to the owners of various cold stores, including those of the big cold stores in the 7-km stretch from Jhungian to Jhansla village.

Claiming to have suffered losses worth Rs 50 lakh, Manjit Singh, owner of Baba Ajit Singh cold store in Jhungian village,said, “Around 500 farmers had kept their potato stock at my store. Out of these, only 200 farmers have lifted their stock. The remaining just refused to pick up their stock, due to which I had no choice but to dump the rest of the stock as the store needs to be cleaned for the next season.”

“One-month electricity bill of my cold store is around Rs 5 lakh. Besides, I have to pay the salaries of my workers too,” Singh said.

‘Govt of no help either’

A leading potato farmer in the country,Jang Bhadhur Sangha of Jalandhar, said, “The central government had prepared a market intervention scheme to support the market at the time of slump in price of farmers' produce. However, knowing that there is huge price slump due to surplus potato production, the government did not care to intervene. This has left the farmers to fend for themselves. They have no alternative but to dump their stock.”

Sangha also pointed out how ban on the export of potato to Pakistan, where the crop was fetching price as good as Rs 10 per kg, has added to the woes of farmers. “Export to Pakistan would have helped with the profit from potato in the domestic market as the surplus stock in Pakistani market had exhausted,” he said.

He said they had asked the Union government through multiple channels to allow export of potato, but to no avail.

First Published: Jan 30, 2018 13:28 IST